Twitter Inc. is introducing a stricter application process for developers that want access to the social platform’s data and removing more apps that violate its code of conduct, part of the continuing effort to clean up conversation on the site and stem spam.
Twitter provides certain companies, developers, and users with access to public data through its application programming interfaces (APIs), or software that requests and delivers information. Starting from July 24, all requests for access go through reviews to determine how developers use the information. Twitter also will carry out policy compliance checks as part of the new registration process. The new rules will help screen out “spammy” and low-quality apps, according to a company blog post. From April and June, Twitter said it removed more than 143,000 apps for violating its policies.
“We’re taking additional steps to ensure that our developer platform works in service of the overall health of conversation on Twitter,” the company said.
The changes are part of Twitter’s efforts to avoid the public scandal that has befallen its larger rival, Facebook Inc. after it was revealed that one of its outside developers gave information on millions of users to Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that worked on Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential campaign. Since then, Facebook has made a slew of changes to limit how much user data is available to developers and other third parties. Apple Inc. has also changed its App Store rules to limit how developers use information about iPhone owners’ friends and other contacts.
To rein in the ability of bad actors to create spam on Twitter, the company is also limiting the volume of engagement. For instance, apps will be limited to tweeting and retweeting 300 times every 3 hours though they can apply for more access. The company is also making it easier for users to report apps that produce spam or invade user privacy.
Twitter acknowledged that the new process adds extra steps and time to get started with new development, but said it’s necessary to be able to support those who want to build high-quality apps while reducing the impact of bad actors.
San Francisco-based Twitter has its own ties to the Cambridge Analytica scandal: it sold data access to the academic, Aleksandr Kogan, who created a personality quiz on Facebook to harvest information later used by the political consultant. Kogan’s own firm was granted access to large-scale public Twitter data for one day in 2015, Twitter has said.
Since being criticized for failing to detect evidence of Russian manipulation and misinformation that ran rampant on its platform during the 2016 elections, Twitter has made a series of changes to help control the platform. It has been identifying almost 10 million dubious accounts a week and putting all accounts through a security check. Last month it acquired security company Smyte to fight spam, abuse, and fraud.
Twitter has long offered a way for brands or researchers to analyze events, sentiment and customer service. Third parties can access part of Twitter’s data for free, or pay more for access to the full history of tweet data. Before Tuesday’s changes, only apps seeking premium data access had to explain how they planned to use the information and who the end users would be. Now, all developers will follow that process. Twitter’s data and enterprise business has been one of the company’s faster-growing areas, increasing 20 percent to $90 million in the first quarter.